Turn Back : My Experience on Everest-2022
I am posting this detailed account of my recent climb so that I can share the experience with fellow athletes and could possibly learn something if they can point out any mistakes. Here it goes:
It was all set: progressively higher climbs over the past few years, gathering the finances and finally signing up to climbing Mt.Everest via a guided format from the South side (Nepal).
Everything went smoothly, a quick recap of the timeline:
-Arrival in Kathmandu.
-The leisure trek to EBC
-Climbing to C-1,2 and spending a night each. Te
-Going up the Lhotse wall and hitting 7000m and reaching back to the BC 2 days later.
-In the wait for the summit window, I hiked down all the way to Namche and spend a good 5 days with an effective R&R.
-I flew back to EBC for the summit push.
-I did not have the slightest clue of what was waiting to unfold.
The climb from BC to C-1 took me about 7 hrs. This was against 11 hrs during the first rotation ( I had a wrong ruck sack which was pinching my trapz there by cutting off the flow to both my arms! Talk about going to the battle with an untested weapon.It took me a few hours to figure out what was wrong but had to manage with what I had). Anyway during the final push I got a new pack , and was super happy with the 7 hrs it took me.
I stopped by to have my breakfast. This was at about 9:30 a.m., and It was a bright and clear day. The plan was to reach C-2 the same day. Previously it took me 3.5 hrs to reach from C-1 to C-2. Since my guide was carrying a heavy load, I told him to go ahead and that I will reach the camp within 3 hrs or in the worse case a maximum of 5 hrs. But it took me 8 hrs !
Yes, it took me a full 8 hrs. As soon as I finished my meal, everything was fine. An hour into the hike from C-1 to C-2 in the Western CWM, I started to feel the heat burning me down. Not a whiff of wind, just bright sun. I was at a point where one can see both the camps. Instinct told me that I should probably head back to C-1, just borrow a sleeping bag from someone and sleep for the day. But I thought it’s only just hot weather and I should just push on and rest at C-2 instead. The mistake had been made here.
No matter whatever I tried, to the point that I almost stripped to my first layer, I just could not catch up on my speed. For those of you who have climbed Everest, you know how the terrain is from C-1 to C-2. You can always see the camp, but will never get there. And that day for me, it felt as if each step that I took was away from the camp and not towards it. I finally made it to the camp just before 6 p.m. I was bonked, but did not lose my rational thinking. I knew that I was tired, but did not know how bad it was. I ran a fever that night. Took a paracetamol and slept.
The next day, we were supposed to move to C-3, but with a good weather window I chose to rest it out at C-2 and move the next day instead. I spent the entire day eating well and hydrating with a variety of fluids available.
The following day, I woke up fresh. Post breakfast, geared up and I took off. It was another clear day and everything was super good with me for the next 90 mins or so. And then my head started to hurt on the sides. I brushed it off thinking maybe the helmet is too tight. In the next 30 mins, my head started to spin. The last time I had a headache on the mountain was 7 years ago. I was nearing the Lhotse wall (an hour away) and my instinct knew that something was wrong. The body heat was too much to handle (my watch read 48 C or 118 F). I decided to put on the bottled oxygen. Here’s what happened next:
-My condition worsened. The bottled oxygen helped little to make me feel better.
-I looked up the C-3 and the route above, and knew that if I make it up, I’ll not make it back down. This thought came to me without the slightest of second thought.
-I reached the Lhoste wall. I knew that if I clipped into the fixed line, it’s going to be a suicide mission.
-I sat there at the base of the Lhoste wall, took an hour to decide. And finally
-Decided to go back and climb the mountain another day.
The decision turned out to be a good one and the descend to C-2 was a painful one. I was dizzy and had to sit every 10-20 steps to regain my focus. I reached C-2 in 3x the time it usually takes. It was so hot that I could not drink anything that was even mildly warm. The kitchen boy was kind enough to get me a bottle of cola and later on helped me with a supply of cold water (boiling it and then cooling it down so that I can have it). I tried descending to C-1 the same day, but my frequent dizziness stopped me from doing so. The next day I took a chopper from C-2 to BC and another one to a hospital in Kathmandu. After a battery of tests for the next 2 days, it was concluded that I was affected with severe heat stroke.
It’s about 2 months to this day since that incident happened and I am still recovering from that fateful day. My HR has stabilised only in the last 2 weeks and prior to that, my RHR was 10-15 beat higher and general HR was hitting the roof with the slightest of activity coupled with breathlessness.
Here are my takeaways:
-TFNA works big time. It’s just pure science and consistency!
-Don’t ignore your instincts on the mountain. You know when something is not right.
-The climber in me is happy with the decision to turn back, but the ego still scratches my pride every now and then 🙂
-Except for the heat stroke incident, I enjoyed every bit of the climb. I could do so because of the many training hours I’ve spent via TFNA.
– Inspite of the current ‘Guided Climbing’ trend, your experience counts! Don’t be in a rush to climb big mountains too soon.
-Breathing under the mask sucks.
-Like all the mountains, irrespective of the crowds, The Everest is a stunningly beautiful mountain.
-There are no shortcuts to training. You got to put in the hours and you’ll reap the benefits on the climb!
I welcome the coaches and other experienced athletes to share their comments of what possibly I could have done right to have avoided the situation in the first place.
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